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Kelly and Bratton: “Marrying” The Times

September 7, 2009

Back in 1993, during his first term as police commissioner, Ray Kelly bought his suits off the rack from wholesaler Carmine Fabrizio.

Since returning as commissioner in 2002, Kelly prefers custom-made suits. His tailor is Martin Greenfield, who was also the tailor for Kelly’s rival and nemesis, William Bratton, who replaced Kelly in 1994.

Last week, the New York Times showed Kelly in full-color haberdashery splendor, featuring his Charvet ties and penchant for Windsor knots.

“My tastes have sort of matured through the years,” Kelly told the article’s author, the Times’ police bureau chief Al Baker.

The Times placed Kelly in the “rich tradition of fancy-dressing police officials,” while ignoring the fact that his sartorial tastes have grown more expensive in tandem with his swelling ego.

For the past few years, Kelly has actually had an image consultant, former Ralph Lauren executive Hamilton South, hired by the Police Foundation around the time that Kelly considered running for mayor. Last year, he was profiled in Men’s Vogue, where he was described as wearing “a bespoke Martin Greenfield suit, French cuffs fastened with weighty gold links, and a gold-colored Charvet tie.”

Besides Bratton’s tailor, Kelly has borrowed from Bratton in another crucial area: favorable coverage in the New York Times.

Bratton completely appreciated the importance of the nation’s most influential newspaper. After his abrupt departure from the NYPD — due to insurmountable ego clashes with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani — he wrote in his autobiography that, while commissioner, he had sought “to marry” the Times.

“I wanted the paper of record to tell our story and I went out of my way to make the Times understand what we were doing,” he wrote. What they were doing included nothing less than revolutionizing the culture of the NYPD, establishing systems that dramatically reduced homicides and crime in general in New York City over the following 15 years.

The centerpiece of this marriage was a 2,225-word Times piece on November 19, 1994, that ran under the headline, “Bratton Builds His Image as He Rebuilds the Police.” As Bratton proudly noted in his autobiography, “The article ran almost a full page inside, and was both a profile of me and my team.”

Kelly has been even more successful than Bratton with the Times. Take the front page story that ran on Nov. 29, 2007, under the headline, “City Homicides Still Dropping, to Under 500, Lowest in Decades.”

“Homicides began falling in the early 1990s when Raymond W. Kelly first served as police commissioner,” the story said, “and plummeted further under subsequent commissioners.”

Absent in the article was any mention of Bratton.

While the Daily News has reported on the inability of citizens to get through to half the city’s precincts by telephone; while the Post has broken stories of the drug scandal in a Brooklyn narcotics unit, a steroids scandal involving 27 officers, including a deputy chief, and uncovered an Internal Affairs report showing that corruption arrests jumped 25 per cent from 2005 to 2006, the Times in recent years has uncovered very little.

The paper’s discerning coverage of Washington seems absent when it comes to covering Kelly and the NYPD. Can this be the same newspaper that 40 years ago broke the story of the NYPD’s systemic, organized corruption scandal that led to the formation of the ground-breaking Knapp Commission?

Indeed, in recent years the Times seems to have lost sight of its journalistic mission in covering the NYPD. With Kelly, the newspaper has focused more on his haberdashery than on the department’s flaws, which include a complete lack of transparency, often under the guise of fighting terrorism.

Kelly is so sparing of information that he refuses to reveal such minor matters as his public schedule, saying that disclosure “could endanger lives or hurt ongoing investigations.” Talk about an oversized ego.

Until reporters protested, he tried to end the weekly release listing officers facing charges in the department’s trial room, ensuring the public would learn little, if anything, about cases of police corruption.

Despite his seven-year ballyhoo, it remains unclear what Kelly’s anti-terrorism measures have truly accomplished. The NYPD’s signature anti-terrorism event was the conviction of a semi-retarded Pakistani immigrant for conspiring to bomb the Herald Square subway station on the eve of the 2004 Republican National convention at Madison Square Garden. The plot was abetted by an NYPD informant to whom the department paid $100,000 to egg him on.

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This scenario was repeated in May 2009, when the NYPD helped the FBI arrest some anti-Semitic knuckleheads who planned to bomb a Bronx Jewish center and an upstate airbase. They, too, were aided by a paid informant — the FBI’s — who plied them with money and promised to supply the weaponry.

If New Yorkers believe that these arrests are the equivalent of thwarting a serious terrorist attack, then we are in more trouble than anyone can imagine.

Your Humble Servant will now suggest some questions that Times reporters and the editors who monitor them might ask Commissioner Kelly after commenting on his lovely ties.

l. How does he square his stated goal of fighting terrorism with purposely antagonizing virtually every other agency fighting terrorism — the FBI , Port Authority police, Secret Service, State Department, and the former Attorney General?

2. Why has Kelly refused to obey a court order to turn over documents involving the Intelligence Division’s spying on legitimate political groups nationwide before the Republican National Convention, a program the NYPD kept from the FBI? Was it to protect its “assets” as Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen has stated in court papers, or to hide the fact that such spying broke the law?

3. How does Kelly explain Cohen’s use of Intelligence Division detectives to conduct a private investigation for Daily News publisher Mortimer Zuckerman, who feared that terrorists might be stalking him because of his support for Israel? [In your dreams, Mort.]

4. What punishment, if any, was given to Intelligence detective who persuaded Queens prosecutors to subpoena the phone records of a woman he claimed might be a terrorist but was actually a girlfriend he wanted to check up on?

5. How does Kelly explain the two tax-payer-funded, $20,000-per-annum luxury cars and the two police drivers that were assigned to Deputy Commissioner for Counter-Terrorism, Richard Falkenrath?

Ditto Falkenrath’s $13,000 junket to Singapore to give the “Distinguished Dinner Lecture” for the Asia-Pacific Program for Senior National Security Officers?

6. What function does Kelly’s much-publicized anti-terrorism “Scholar in Residence” perform? How much time does he spend in NYC in his subsidized apartment? Who in the NYPD does he meet with and how frequently? Who are the benefactors of the foundation that is paying for him?

7. The Times might also explore the lack of oversight into how the NYPD gathers its terrorism information.

Perhaps it might ask Kelly to explain his letter last fall to former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, whom Kelly accused of hindering investigations of “high priority subjects of international terrorism investigations in the New York area” by using “inappropriately high standards of probable cause” when evaluating NYPD wiretapping applications.

Mukasey called Kelly’s views “contrary to law,” adding: “In effect what you ask is that we disregard legal requirements which are rooted in the Constitution.”

8. In its anti-terrorism zeal, the NYPD has become a mini-CIA. Perhaps the Times might ask why nobody — and no governmental body — is monitoring its anti-terrorism measures.

Perhaps the Times might explore why no mechanisms are in place to prevent it from abusing its authority so that it does not break the law.

9. Finally the Times might ask why the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association honored Bratton, not Kelly, last week as its Man of the Year.

Ditto the British government’s plans to award its Order of the British Empire in Washington on 9/11 to Bratton, not Kelly, citing Bratton’s contributions “from counter-terrorism to crime reduction.”

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